As you sit down to eat your pork chop or your BLT, have you ever considered the journey forced upon the pig that has landed on your plate?

It’s tragic.

Animals for food have the most miserable lives on earth; they are forcefully bred for a life of unspeakable abuse. While alive they live in horrific conditions and are subjected to mutilating procedures without anaesthetics. After this life of misery, they are crammed unto transport trucks for a hazardous—and often deadly—trip to the slaughterhouse.

Live Animal Transport Realities

Every year in Canada, it is estimated that 1.6 million animals die on their way to the slaughterhouse. Many die from exposure to the heat or cold.

While the 40-year-old transport regulation was amended earlier this year, the changes provide little benefit for the animals themselves, and Canada’s live animal transportation laws are one of the most lax in the world.

It’s all about money.

Animals are still permitted to be transported for extended periods of time without access to water, food or rest, in spite of the veterinary recommendation of 12 hours maximum. The breakdown by animal type is as follows:

  • 12 hours for any compromised animals (please see here for the definition of a compromised animal)
  • 24 hours maximum without access to safe water for broiler chickens, spent laying hens and rabbits; and 28 hours maximum without access to feed and rest
  • 28 hours for horses and pigs
  • 72 hours for day-old chicks (this is incredibly inhumane!)
  • 36 hours for all other animals

The new live animal transport regulations also don’t speak to the need to transport animals in vehicles that are equipped with temperature controls; additionally, electric prods are still permitted for animals older than 3 months.

Remember, it’s all about money. Most transport companies—and the farms that hire them to move what they consider a commodity as cheaply as possible—don’t want to spend any money on retrofitting vehicles for temperature control—much less adding water spigots. And they certainly don’t want staff to waste any time loading those poor animals onto vehicles. And while they’re at it, they load as many animals as possible, ignoring any need they may have to even lift their heads. (Luckhart Transport from Sebringville, Ontario do have vehicles with onboard amenities, including raised roofs for ventilation, water for drinking, mist for cooling, and elevators to aid pigs in the steep climb to upper decks. While this makes the animals’ journey less traumatic, let’s not forget where they are going.)

Legislation is routinely ignored (and not enforced) and this undoubtedly continues with the new legislation. So, workers persist with using prods that often harm animals, and they shove as many animals as possible onto vehicle—even into the corners, which are meant to be left empty as that is where the most extreme temperatures are felt. Have you ever seen a poultry truck on the highway? Chickens are flung into crates by their feet, packed and forced in as tightly as possible, then the crates are stacked one on top of the other, several crates high and across. It’s horror on wheels.

What Can You Do?

If this sickens you, and it should, there are actions you can take.

  • If you notice animals in distress on a transport vehicle, and it is safe to do so, please record as many details as possible including day and time, plate number, transport company, and take images if you’re able. Please visit or call Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s toll-free number 1-800-442-2342 to obtain a local number. Alternatively, you can call the police to report the incident.
  • Write to your MP to ask for stronger regulations and enforcement.
  • Sign e-petitions that support farm animals.
  • Support organizations and nonprofits that tirelessly work to improve the lives of farm animals. Here are a few: Mercy for Animals, Canadian Coalition for Farm Animals, We Animals, Animal Justice, Canadians for Ethical Treatment of Farmed Animals.
  • Reduce (or eliminate) your consumption of animal products. More and more meat-, dairy- and egg-free alternatives are introduced each month. For example, Toronto based Yam Chops and Loblaws have partnered to bring new vegan products to stores.
  • Visit plant-based chefs’ websites for recipe ideas, and get on their email lists. Here are three suggestions: Toronto based Angela Liddon; Ottawa based Amy Longard; Victoria based Melanie McDonald.
  • Attend a Vegfest near you to gain insights into the benefits of a meat-free diet from the many speakers, and sample delicious plant-based alternatives. Here is a list of the festivals taking place across Canada.

We need to do better. Indeed we can and must do better. It’s shameful that Canada has one of the worst laws around the transport of live animals. They are living beings who bleed and feel pain, just like human animals. Please think about that the next time you go shopping.

Many thanks to the following women who were witnesses to the suffering of animals on transport vehicles, and who provided the images for this post: Randi Paradis, Claudia Godden, Tracey Godden, Melody Jeanes, Lori Croonen, Bridget DeMarsh.